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Hoosier workers rally to show COVID-19's financial devastation

Thousands of workers currently laid off
Posted at 6:53 PM, Oct 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-05 18:53:49-04

INDIANAPOLIS — From Monument Circle to the Indiana War Memorial, a group of live music and entertainment workers pushed carts.

“They are empty boxes because the road boxes don’t have the equipment in them that you would need for a show because there are no shows,” says Joanne Sanders, Vice President for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

They’re showcasing the number of people out of work because of canceled shows and entertainment due to COVID-19.

“The truth of the matter is over 83,000 people in this community rely on tourism for a paycheck,” says Sanders. “And at this point in time, more than half of those are unemployed.”

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees represents stagehands, wardrobe workers, conventions workers, etc.

“It’s abysmal what’s happening,” the vice president said.

There might be no empty storefront or restaurant you can point to and see. But this shutdown is felt nonetheless.

“We would love to go back. We want to go back,” says Peggy Williams, a stagehand. “We don’t want the unemployment. We do want to go back.”

“We are the invisible workforce because we are behind the scenes,” says Sanders.

The Indiana Convention Center itself has lost hundreds of millions of dollars because of the pandemic.

As gig workers, they only get paid when they work.

Many fear what the industry will be if events can’t convene.

“Bring the magic back. We do the magic,” says Williams. “Bring it back, we need it. We all need it. We’ve needed it since March.”

They’re now urging lawmakers to act.

“We were given $168 million in CARES Act dollar allocation in March,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett.

The mayor of Indianapolis says they have already appropriated all of those funds, including an $11 million grant program specifically focused on helping the hospitality industry. But he says, it’s just not enough.

“I just want Congress to come together and send us more support to help these families go back to work.”